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French, who had been called to oppose the German advance on the Marne. Pershing spoke of the "desperate efforts" of the enemy at Cantigny, "determined at all costs to counteract the most excellent effect the American success had produced." For three days guns of all calibers were vainly concentrated upon the new positions. Coming at the moment of extreme discouragement, Cantigny was of an importance entirely out of proportion to the numbers involved. For months France had been awaiting American assistance. A year before the French had seen Pershing and the first few doughboys, but the long delay had caused them to lose the confidence which that sight had aroused. Now suddenly came the news that the Americans were arriving in tremendous numbers and from Cantigny, north and south along the lines, spread the report: "These men will fight." Four days later at Chateau-Thierry,' Americans proved not merely the moral but the practical value of their assistance. The German drive of the 27th of May, beginning on the Chemin des Dames, had pushed south to the Marne and westward
1 The reader should distinguish the defensive operations at Chateau-Thierry, on the 1st of June, from the attack launched from this sector in July. Both are known as the battle of ChateauThierry.
towards Meaux. The French falling back in haste had maintained their lines intact, but were pessimistic as to the possibility of stopping the enemy advance. On the 31st of May, German vanguard units entered Chateau-Thierry, crossed the river, and planned to secure the bridges. At this moment American machine gunners of the Third Division came up with a battalion of French colonials in support, drove the Germans back to the north bank, covered the retreat of the French forces across the Marne, on the following day, and gave time to blow up the bridges. On the same day, the 1st of June, northwest of Chateau-Thierry, the Second Division came into line to support the wearied French, and as the latter came filtering back and through, soon found itself meeting direct German assaults. Stretching across the road to Paris, with the French too weak to make a stand, it blocked the German advance. Even so, the danger was not entirely parried, since the enemy held strong positions from Vaux northwest to Veuilly, which, when German reinforcements came up, would enable them to deliver deadly assaults. Those positions had to be taken. From the 6th to the 11th of June, American troops, among them marine regiments, struck viciously, concentrating against the railroad embankment atBouresches and the hill of Belleau Woods. The stiffness of the German defense, maintained by their best troops, was overcome by fearless rushing of machine-gun nests, ruthless mopping-up of isolated stragglers, and a final clearing of the Woods by heavy artillery fire. On the 18th of June the Americans took the approaches to Torcy and on the 1st of July the village of Vaux. If the attack on Belleau Woods proved their courage, the capture of Vaux vindicated their skill, for losses were negligible.
The Allied line was now in a position to contest actively any deepening of the Marne salient to the west, and American troops had so clearly proved their quality that Pershing could with justice demand a radical revision of the Allied opinion that American soldiers were fit only for the defense. His confidence in their fighting capacity was soon further put to the test and vindicated. On the 15th of July the Germans opened the fourth and last of their great drives, with tremendous artillery fire from Rheims to the Marne. They hoped to capture the former, swing far to the south and west, and, if they failed to take Paris, at least to draw sufficient troops from Flanders and Picardy as to assure a successful drive on Amiens and the Channel Ports. For the first time, however, the element of surprise in their attack was lacking. At the eastern end of the battle-line General Gouraud, with whom were fighting the Forty-second Division and four colored regiments, warned of the moment of attack, withdrew his front lines and permitted the Germans to shell empty trenches; all important positions he held firmly. On the Marne, east of Chateau-Thierry, the enemy succeeded in crossing the river in the early morning. At various points the American line was compelled to yield, although one of the American regiments stood its ground while on either flank the Germans, who had gained a footing on the south bank, pressed forward; it was, according to Pershing's report, "one of the most brilliant pages in our military annals." At noon, heedless of the warning given by the French commander, American reinforcements launched a strong counter-attack and drove the enemy back to the river; on the next morning no Germans were to be found on the south bank in front of the American troops. During the next two days German efforts to press forward were unrelaxing but in vain, and on the 18th of July, Foch launched his counter-offensive. The inherent weakness of the Marne salient from the German point of view and the opportunity which it offered the Allied command had not been forgotten by the generalissimo. Foch waited until the enemy had spent his strength in the attacks around Rheims and on the Marne, then struck fiercely between Soissons and Chateau-Thierry. The spearhead of the main drive was composed of the First and Second American Divisions, immediately to the south of Soissons, who were operating under Mangin with the First French Moroccan Division between them. Straightway, without the orthodox preliminary artillery fire, a deep thrust was made against the western side of the salient; near Soissons, despite fierce resistance, advances of from eight to ten kilometers and large numbers of prisoners were reported in the first twenty-four hours. "Due to the magnificent dash and powers displayed on the field of Soissons by our First and Second Divisions," said Pershing, "the tide of war was definitely turned in favor of the Allies." Further to the south, the Fourth and Twenty-sixth Divisions crossed the road running from Chateau-Thierry to Soissons, pushing east; while from the southern bank of the Marne, the Third Division pushed north across the river. It was obvious to the Germans that retreat from the